Chapter 15:

The Past (1)

FICTION: If you held the power of god in your two hands, would you save the world? Would you doom it? Or would you watch from the sidelines, just as you had done before?

Humans will always strive for both truths, and falsehoods. Despite what you might always hear about people only wanting the truth, that is absolutely never the case. Without lies or deception, there’s no hope. There are no dreams, or unrealistic goals. There is nothing to strive for that is far out of one’s reach, which is what ultimately will push them beyond their limits.

But they need truth, because they need a proper understanding of reality as well. They need to be able to have some basis to use as a trusting ground for those sweet-sounding lies. Without truth, lies will ruin a human being. But just in the opposite sense, without lies, truth will make them settle.

The perfect balance lies somewhere in between, where they’re able to receive a healthy portion of both. It is only through that mutual relationship between the two that one can achieve their most valuable self.

For their inner-selves, such a concept always seems to manifest itself in two different ways. Inevitably, a human will always either lie to themselves so that they can be honest with others, or lie to others so that they can be honest with themselves.

When you try to lean too heavily in either direction, well…

You ultimately won’t be able to live with yourself.


He was diligent in his studies, and kind to his classmates.

Just how a proper student should conduct themselves.

The second year middle schooler, whose hair was just a bit too long, always seemed to be on top of his appearance. His classmates called him cute. He was known amongst his peers for being kind and reserved, and always doing the right thing. But despite the fact that nobody seemed to dislike him, nobody quite liked him either.

He was a bit of a “goody-two-shoes”, if you will. With seemingly no flaws and no real problems, his peers found a way to point things out regardless. But despite being called “girly”; despite being approached by individuals asking if he was gay, or if he was trans. Whether or not it was with the best intention or the worst of sarcasm, the boy would always reply to his classmates in the same way.

“Haha, not really… I’m just me.”

And then he flashed a casual smile.

What was he hiding? Why wouldn’t he just go ahead and open up to anybody? Why can’t he just loosen up? His classmates were all asking the same thing, after a while. And jokes became scorn, and scorn became bullying.

Not all of them were bad to him. But the ones who were more than made up for the ones who weren’t. And the ones who weren’t bullying him felt no need to balance out the scales, either.. They only stood by and watched, or turned their heads and kept a distance. They didn’t want to throw themselves into the spotlight.

So why?

Why couldn’t he make friends?

Why didn’t people see him as normal?

Those were the questions which swirled through his head day in and day out. But even the hate; the names, and the pranks, and the teachers coming to break it up; it felt like a positive; like some kind of affirmation, even if entirely negative. So he never complained. He never thought to defend himself.

Only smiles. Only kindness.

He stayed out late every night, even if that meant wandering the streets.

Well, it meant that he didn’t want to be home. That much didn’t need much speculation.

He returned at different intervals following 8 PM every night.

Because what the boy feared far more than being hated was being loved by somebody whom he wanted nothing to do with.

“Oh, Hotaru! You’re home!”

“Yeah. I’m home.”

The Fujiwara household.

His mother greeted him at the door. She seemed to just be finishing up with dinner, which she always liked to make for the two of them.

“Take a seat at the table, I made Shogayaki tonight. Your favorite.”

He didn’t reply.

He wasn’t one for pork. The ginger made it better, but Hotaru didn’t have much of an appetite to begin with, so fatty meats generally made him a little sick.

He was already getting nervous. But the boy held it together to his best ability, and sat down in his usual spot at the dining table, waiting patiently for the meal to arrive.

He counted the seconds.

“Here you go, sweetie!”

The Fujiwara Mother slid a plate in his direction, then took her place at the kitchen side of the table with a bit of an inquisitive look on her face.

He was hoping that the dinner would be a silent one. But he already knew that she had something to ask; he knew what it would be, as well.

“Hey, I was thinking… I saved a lot of my middle-school clothes for your big sister to wear, but honestly, I think they’d look just as good on you! Why don’t you come try some on for me after you finish your homework tonight?”

He hadn’t even begun to eat her pork yet. It looked grossly unappetizing. In fact, his stomach was already churning.

He couldn’t bring himself to respond.

“Don’t you want to try them on? I saved them just for you, dear.”

Hotaru began to shake his head. He barely tilted it left, then right. Just enough for her to get the message. She looked increasingly less jolly, and her wide smile wrinkled a bit as she put her fork down.

“Well. That’s okay. Kids your age must not be interested in old clothes like mine, anyway.”

Hotaru took a deep breath, and peeked her eyes up at her mother. He figured that the worst of it was over. But her stiff smile and wrinkled face were no less intimidating than it had been.

“Let’s go shopping tomorrow, then. I’ll buy you some new clothes.”

Perhaps he could do it this time.


Perhaps his mom would understand.

“I’m o-okay.”

“Do you HATE me?!”

The Fujiwara mother blew her top. As if Hotaru had cut the wrong wire.

“I do so much for you! I sent you to a good school, I offer to help you study, I give you a good allowance and buy you things all the time! I cook the food you like, I clean the house and don’t even make you do chores, and yet all you seem to like to do is ignore me! You stay out late, but I know you don’t have any friends! I checked your phone and there were no contacts in it! What are you even doing out there!? Don’t you understand I’m worried about you?!”

He had really done it now. The middle school boy could do nothing but sit and hold back tears in his seat. It was like this every few days for him.

He was used to it.

He could get through it.

He just had to let her yell until she had finished taking her anger out on him.

“Your sister never acted like this! Hotaru was so sweet, and quiet, and she always did what I said. She knew I was a wonderful mother! But apparently you’re too good for me, right? So tell me then! What is so wrong with your mother!? Why do you just refuse to talk to me, despite everything I do for you!? TELL ME RIGHT NOW!

I had never felt such anger in my life. Not since I had sworn myself out of human affairs. Whenever I seemed to convince myself that I had finally begun to numb emotionally, I would always come back to Hotaru Fujiwara and be reminded just how shallow my emotional barriers really were.

But I had to separate myself from humans. I had to come apart from them. It was already too late to go back; too late to atone.

Otherwise I would never be content.

Hotaru simply sat there, and let his mother chew him out.

He shut her out, nodded his head, and said he was sorry, and then eventually he was allowed to leave to his room.

This; all of this; it was the day to day for the middle schooler.

He wondered if things were like this for his late sister as well, or if she was as perfect as they said. Looking at the shrine that her parents had set up to pay their respects to her, he thought that the two of them really did look alike.

If only that he could have met her. The only person who would be able to relate with him about his family, or his issues.

But of course he couldn’t have. Hotaru doubted he would have even been born, if not for her passing.

As he returned to his room, the miserable boy had a certain look on his face.

He had a certain intention.

I could feel my chest tighten. It was only times like these that I was even sure that my heart still worked; when it clenched in, begging me to step in and act. These rare moments and rare emotions, which always seemed to come out with this one boy.

Of course I knew the reason.

Even though I wished I could play dumb, I was far too self-aware.

Up in his room, he pulled his desk drawer outward and reached his hand through a small hole in the back.

It came back out gripping a knotted rope.

It was chillingly old, yet tied perfectly. It was the one his sister used to take her own life, which he found tucked away in his own closet. His mom likely never had the courage to throw it out.

This had been her room before he was born, after all.

In fact, everything that now belonged to him was once hers. Even the things which his mom tried to pass off as new, he could tell. His hairstyle, some of his clothes, the food she cooked for him, and even his name. They had all once been tied to his late sister.

The original Hotaru Fujiwara.

The girl he was born to replace.

Hotaru gazed at the neatly tied noose, which just from the craftsmanship alone, leaked details about the kind of person she once was.

He had only seen pictures of her, and yet he could see a clear image of her in his mind, as she neatly and carefully tied the knots. He fantasized that his mother was the reason that she ended things, but he knew that wasn’t true.

After all, Hotaru read her note as well. His mother showed it to him one time when he was young, after seeing her cry while looking at it. She was a more quiet, relatively cheerful person. One who tried her best to get along with others, even though she wasn’t very social. And one who was painfully honest. She claimed to be a murderer, causing the suicide of some “Nishimiya” kid. She pushed him and pushed him, and her forceful nature drove him to death. She was so honest that she attempted to turn herself into the police once she found out it was her fault.

But they dismissed her, of course. So she atoned with the very noose that was now in the hands of her little brother. At least, that was what he gathered from the note, among other pieces of her that had been left behind. They were littered all over the house.

It was a strange thing for Hotaru, to take in bits remnants of this person that he’d never met from almost everybody around him, and yet he knew that he’d never be able to meet them. But funnily enough, the younger brother was the one who thought about her the most.

He was dying to know how she really was, for his mother to be so desperate to see her again; to recreate her through him.

He gazed at the noose with a longing expression. Perhaps this way, he would come to understand her best. If he could recreate her final moments, maybe their minds would become one.

At first it was just idle fantasizing, but eventually, the suicidal urges progressed. Ironically, his sister had done it impulsively. She hadn’t even tried until she had already been exhausted of all other options. It pained me to watch her younger brother try and imitate her.

They were nothing alike.

At first, he always pondered.

Looked around a bit.

Peeked out the door, then closed it.

He hung it up, and gave it a good tug.

Stepped up onto his desk chair.

Took a deep breath, and pulled his head around it.

And then…

“Please don’t.”

I grabbed his arm.

“Ah. So you’re here after all.”

Well, of course the young boy wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t the first time I couldn’t just sit and watch him do it. He was long past the point of being willing to.

“I… Yeah.”

“It… doesn’t matter though. You’re just in my head, right? Just a figment of my imagination.”

“I- I’m a ghost.”

“One that was friends with my sister before she died. Right?”

As I heard the words, my heart wrenched up again. It hurt to listen to, even though I was the one who told him such a lie.

But what was I supposed to do, once I blew my cover? I had already messed up before, so I had no choice but to work with my mistakes.

“Sorry. I don’t believe you. Otherwise, you’d let me see her, right? Even though you know I want to see her, you won’t show me anything.”

“I can’t. Sorry.”

“Then you must be just a figment of my imagination. If you can’t do things that a ghost could do. You won’t even tell me what she was like.”

Sure, I could have tried to prove my statement. But every time, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t confirm or deny statements, or give reassurance, or even just talk regularly with him. Because any word that came out of my mouth would only dig the both of us deeper into my lie.

Even though I had already intervened and exposed myself.

I was just that kind of half-assed person, unfortunately.

“I don’t want you to be like her. I’d rather you try and be your own person.”

“You don’t get it. She’s all I have. I was born to replace her. I was raised to be like her. Even my name is the exact same. Mom doesn’t even feel slightly bad. If not her, I have no identity. I have nothing.”


He was right.

“Nothing is okay. I think.”

“See? You really don’t get it.”

My words weren’t helpful. I didn’t even know what I was trying to say with them. I just wanted to get something out. To do something.

But it was useless.

I was useless.

I let go of his arm.

“I still won’t let you. I have my own selfish reasons.”

Looking into his eyes, I could see her clearly. I could almost understand how his mom felt, as horrible as she was.

They really did look alike. Even if nothing else had any trace of resemblance, their eyes were exactly the same.

It only made things harder. It only made me unable to keep myself from visiting.

It only made me more desperate to atone for my sins, which still weighed upon my back.

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